Logo Study: JUSTICE LEAGUE Part 5

JLA 3 cover
All images © DC Comics

The Justice League franchise, with it’s multiple teams in several titles, that had been such a hit in the late 1980s and early 1990s was on a downhill slide, and the books ended, one by one. Such is the way of most comics series. And, as is usually the case, it made way for a new relaunch of the concept in 1997 written by Grant Morrison, art by Howard Porter and John Dell. This time, for variety, it would be called simply JLA. Ace designer Alex Jay was once more called in to create the logo, and here are his notes and sketches:

Justice League International has 26 letters. Justice League Europe has 19 letters. Justice League Quarterly and Justice League Task Force both have 22 letters. On March 4, 1996 art director Georg Brewer offered the JLA logo to me; you can imagine how happy I was to have just three letters to

JLA logos Alex Jay
JLA logos Alex Jay

On March 11 I faxed five sketches to Georg. I tried a variety of letter styles and perspectives. I received a fax on March 29 requesting revisions:

JLA logos Alex Jay
JLA logos Alex Jay

Sketch 1 was out. Georg liked the letters in sketch 2, and asked for alternate versions of the “A”. He like the perspective in sketch 3 but with the letters from sketch 2. He asked me to use the letters from sketch 5 in the design of sketch 4.

JLA logos Alex Jay
JLA logos Alex Jay
JLA logo Alex Jay

Revised sketches were faxed to Georg on April 16. Sketches 1 through 3 were okay but the “A” doesn’t fit comfortably in the overall logo. Sketch 4 has a “busy” design because there are too many angles in it. Sketch 5 is an improvement but sketch 6 is a better design; better balance. With a few minor adjustments, sketch 6A was approved on April 22. Georg added that someone in-house would design the shield.

I enlarged the sketch on a photocopier. I marked the vanishing points above and below the letters. Using a red ball-point pen I delineated the thickness of the outline. I secured the photocopy on a light box; next I placed a sheet of 1-ply plate-finish bristol board on top. I use a variety of Rapidograph pens for inking. Any mistakes are scraped off with an X-Acto blade or covered with white paint. The finished logo was delivered on April 24.

Todd here. Thanks again, Alex, for sharing all this, perhaps the most thorough look at a logo design I’ve been able to show. Alex began with a variety of fine designs, any of which could have worked well, I think. It’s so much easier to work with three letters, but they still have to be attractively shaped. Georg Brewer’s notes focused in on the ones he liked best, Alex explored those further, and they settled on a design that uses a rounded perspective, such as one might get in a photograph with a fish-eye lens, and deep telescoping. Alex shows in his structural layout how he developed this in accurate two-point perspective. The finished logo (top of this post) adds a recessed inner shape in each letter and a handsome beveled shield that contrasts the perspective and telescoped letters with a flat, essentially triangular background shape. I like the way the letters seem to float above the shield, and the airbrushed color effects work well to give it a slightly metallic look, but not in an overdone, distracting way. This is an excellent logo: distinctive, original, yet built on the past. DC added above it in small type the words “JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA,” just in case readers didn’t get it. Unnecessarily, I say. Who could fail to get this logo?

JLA Year One 1 cover

In 1998 DC published this miniseries in support of the main book. While still using the abbreviation JLA, this logo looks back to the previous Alex Jay letterforms, the Curtis King shield, and the Ed Hannigan stars of previous versions. The letters have an inset shape and metallic rendering similar to the new JLA logo, though. YEAR ONE is a font that seems unrelated and dropped on as an afterthought, but it does provide contrast to the main title, and increases the width of the entire logo, filling a more typical logo footprint. It was designed by Matt Birdoff of SJI Associates, Curtis tells me.

Super Friends 1 cover

An animated version of the Justice League, titled “The Super Friends,” appeared on TV beginning in 1976, and DC published a comic version from 1976 to 1981. The logo doesn’t fall into the area I’m covering here, but I thought I’d show it anyway. It was probably produced by the animation company, as is usually the case with such things.

JL Adventures 1 cover

In 2002 a new animated version hit the airwaves, this time using the Justice League name. Once again the animation company did the logo, which DC then used on a new line of comics. Curtis King told me he added the ADVENTURES line, and adapted the animated version some for this use. How about that great cover art by Bruce Timm and Alex Ross? The logo is rather conservative and bland, typical for TV, and the metallic treatment is only surface gloss, but it does the job well enough.

JLA 85 cover

Over in the main JLA book, DC started using this version of Alex Jay’s design, just the surface shapes of the three letters with the former inset shape now returned to his original heavy outline. It illustrates the maxim, “simpler is better” to me by reducing the logo to it’s core element, the three letters, in a strong, effective way. Unfortunately, the design now points out a too-wide space between the J and L that I would have fixed by moving those letters closer together, letting the pointed serif of the L touch the J. A very powerful, simple and strong logo, though.

Next time I’ll wrap up this logo study with a few more titles from recent years, and a fine new logo for another relaunch.

More chapters and other logo studies on my LOGO LINKS page.

One thought on “Logo Study: JUSTICE LEAGUE Part 5

  1. Somebody

    One odd thing about the JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoon logo – that’s *not* the version that appeared on-screen (by which I mean the shape, not the rendering), even though it’s used on all merchandise, including the DVD covers. The version in the show’s titles vertically stretched the JUSTICE…

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